(AP) A bipartisan trio of Virginia lawmakers said Wednesday that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has conveyed the governor’s support for bills that would ban Dominion Energy and certain other public utilities from making campaign contributions.
Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen, Republican Sen. Richard Stuart and GOP Del. Lee Ware confirmed that the governor’s office had relayed Youngkin’s support for their measures. All three said they thought having the governor’s backing would give their bills a better shot at passage. Similar efforts in previous years aimed at reining in the company’s outsize influence on energy policy have gone nowhere.
Petersen said he had been in touch with Youngkin administration staff who had been “quietly supportive” and had discussed the issue with the governor personally.
Petersen said passing such a ban would offer a chance to “change the culture in Richmond,” where he said Dominion has “basically called the shots” at the General Assembly.
“That may be coming to an end this year, but we’ll see,” he said, acknowledging the struggle he’s faced in the past getting similar measures out of a key Senate committee.
Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, declined comment besides saying the governor would review all legislation that comes to his desk.
Rayhan Daudani, a company spokesman, said Dominion’s position is that “campaign finance laws should apply to all equally.”
Stuart, whose remarks were first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said the governor’s office had conveyed Youngkin’s support for his measure. Ware said the same.
The three lawmakers introduced slightly different bills. Petersen’s would prohibit candidates, campaign committees and political committees from soliciting or accepting contributions from any public utility. Stuart’s is also aimed at any public utility and would create a civil penalty for violations. Ware’s, which is being co-sponsored by Democratic Del. Sally Hudson, is aimed specifically at Dominion and Appalachian Power. A spokeswoman for Appalachian Power declined to comment.
Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate have not indicated their position on the bills.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, a longtime Dominion ally, said he didn’t have time for questions on Jan. 26.
House Speaker Todd Gilbert said the matter was a caucus-level discussion “we haven’t had yet.” House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore said he had no comment.
Dominion has routinely pushed through legislation in recent years that minimized the chances that it would have to lower its rates. That’s even though the regulators have routinely found that the electric monopoly’s rates provide excessive profit to the company.
Clean Virginia, an advocacy group founded by Charlottesville investor and Democratic donor Michael Bills to counter Dominion’s influence, called the development “unprecedented.”
“This is a strong and unprecedented signal from the Executive Mansion to the General Assembly,” Brennan Gilmore, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “It brings Virginia one step closer to finally shutting off the pipeline of cash between Dominion Energy and legislators and ending the malign influence of monopoly utilities in our politics.”
Petersen said he hoped Youngkin would weigh in publicly soon.
-SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press